The will-she-or-won’t-she rumors on Ronda Rousey returning to WWE for WrestleMania 34 are starting to tip the scales in favor of her doing it. The latest big sign is news from the usually-reliable Dave Meltzer that Rousey is currently training up her wrestling skills at the WWE Performance Center, with WWE planning a bout between her Four Horsewomen and Charlotte Flair’s Four Horsewomen.
Ronda’s last appearance in the WWE was a slam dunk success. But it’s a very different world compared to when she stepped through the ropes at WrestleMania 31 in 2015. At the time she was at the height of her career, the undisputed UFC women’s bantamweight champion and undefeated as a professional and an amateur. The media loved her. The fans either loved her or loved to hate her, but mainly loved her. When The Rock pulled her out of the crowd to take on The Authority in a surprise showdown, the wrestling world went nuts in a very good way.
Can that magic be recreated? I’d argue that it can’t. There’s a lot of factors at play here, and they’re all negative when you compare Ronda’s last appearance to what is rumored to go down here.
First and most obvious: no Rock. And then no Authority either. With those two broad strokes you remove the best face and heels in sports entertainment from the equation, which doesn’t help Ronda at all. Then we go to the Four Horsewomen. There’s nothing wrong with the WWE version. Charlotte, Sasha, Becky, and Bayley are all solid Divas who can work. But then you have Ronda’s Four Horsewomen, who comprise of her, Shayna Baszler, Marina Shafir, and Jessamyn Duke. Out of the four, only Baszler has WWE level wrestling chops. The rest are solid athletes, but how many athletes have we seen who were unable to hack it in wrestling?
One of the best parts of Rousey’s WrestleMania 31 appearance was the surprise. No one knew it was going to happen. People wondered whether the UFC had even approved it. But in this case, her arrival seems to be coming from a mile away. If the WWE goes so far as to announce it in advance, that means we’re probably going to be seeing some build-up during the road to WrestleMania, and what we’ve seen thus far on that point isn’t exactly confidence-inspiring …
Last but certainly not least is Ronda Rousey’s reputation coming into all of this. The two losses she ended her MMA career on aren’t great, but they’re compounded by Rousey’s behavior through the entire ordeal. She dropped off the face of the earth following her defeat to Holly Holm, and when she finally returned to the UFC a year later she refused to speak to any media leading up to the fight, a strange first in UFC history. And while the rest of the women’s division had evolved in that time, Ronda hadn’t. She got starched in 48 seconds by current 135 pound champ Amanda Nunes.
Deserved or not (and I’d lean toward “not”), Rousey’s reputation took just as bad of a beating following these events as she did in the cage. Go into any forum discussion on her and you’ll see people trashing her up and down, declaring her a fake that got exposed and a mean girl that got her comeuppance. The kind of passionate vitriol expressed often hits Amy Schumer or Ghostbusters reboot levels. There’s no way she deserves this level of disrespect, but Rousey is in a phase where the public has collectively decided to tear her down.
That’s the atmosphere she’ll be entering WrestleMania in, standing not with The Rock but her random friends and facing off against some of the top names on the WWE Divas roster. Wrestling fans have never been afraid to let you know if they think something is bulls**t, and there’s a very real possibility they’ll have a hate on for Rousey’s Four Horsewomen long before they even make it to New Orleans. Maybe Ronda and the WWE know this and have a plan to make it all work. But it’s just as likely they plan on ignoring reality and shoving her down our throat hard, Reigns style. Either way, it’ll be something to witness come April when WrestleMania 34 finally goes down.